TuSimple, ZF partner on autonomous truck tech

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Self-driving truck company TuSimple is making plans for mass production of its autonomous systems.

The company said Thursday it has struck up a partnership with automotive supplier ZF to develop and commercialize technology for its self-driving big rigs, which are already hauling cargo for customers such as UPS.

The partnership is twofold: ZF will support TuSimple’s preproduction systems starting in a matter of weeks, and the companies will then work toward building automotive-grade cameras, lidar, radar, steering and computing systems.

Both companies have separate partnerships with Nvidia to develop computing platforms, so it’s not necessarily surprising they’d come together to use ZF’s ProAI to further their automated-driving ambitions. The partnership covers global operations in North America, China and Europe.

“Working side by side with ZF to refine and integrate our production-ready technology has allowed us to optimize our hardware stack and focus on scaling these technologies to make it possible for autonomous-ready trucks to be mass produced,” Chuck Price, chief product officer at TuSimple, said in a statement.

TuSimple says it intends to begin fully autonomous operations in 2021. With more than 40 trucks already testing, the company says it is making 20 autonomous trips between Arizona and Texas every week, with human safety drivers still aboard.

One of TuSimple’s key competitors, Starsky Robotics, recently ceased operations after an expected funding round failed to materialize. Starsky’s end raised fresh questions about prospects for self-driving trucks. But the partnership between TuSimple and ZF perhaps shows the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry remains a ripe target.

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